Posts tagged ‘olive oil’

Are you Italian? No? Me neither.

But sometimes I sure wish I was, at least when it comes to PESTO!

Kale pesto ingredients

That’s right, it’s that time of the summer. The basil is high and ready for picking and we’re all craving something aromatic and tastebud pleasing from the garden. Enter one of the world’s finest, yet simplest, and honestly most flexible, “sauces” around. Traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, hard cheese, olive oil and garlic, “pesto” can be made with a variety of herbs, greens, nuts and seeds. Over the last few years, the price of pine nuts has sky rocketed, so many alternatives have become popular. One of my favorite cheap options is Kale Pesto. This “poor mans” pesto is a great way to use up kale when you’re not sure what else to do with it (or need a way to convince those who “hate” kale to eat it) and also save some money – this recipe uses no cheese and substitutes sunflower seeds for the nut. It also allows for some creativity, depending on how you’re using it, when it comes to the herb flavor. Choose basil for a more traditional taste or branch out and try oregano or marjoram.

If you grow your own basil and have an abundance, I highly recommend making LOTS of pesto and freezing it. This allows for enjoyment all winter long and it takes very little space to store. One option for freezing is in little jars, saved from jams or jellies, but the best way I have found is to make your pesto (some people recommend leaving out the cheese and mixing that in when you us it. I could go either way on this) and then freeze it in ice cube trays. Once the pesto is solid, take the cubes out and put them in freezer bags or whatever container you like. These are the perfect size for single servings and are much easier to use than a large amount frozen in a jar. However, if you do go the jar route, the best way to defrost the pesto – if you’re not using the entire jar – is to put it in a pot of close to boiling water and allow it to thaw from the outside. Heat until you have enough for your meal and then pop the jar back in the freezer. This limits the amount of pesto that is thawed and refrozen each time you use it.

Now that you’re dreaming of green, go make some! Try making some with arugula. Maybe some lemon basil (we did this once and put it on grilled fish – yum). Walnuts or almonds are both grand, and there is nothing that says you have to use Parmesan for the cheese. Try it on pasta, fish, veggies and bread. Use a bunch fresh and freeze even more. Basically, when it comes to pesto, think outside the box and have fun!

August 7, 2011 at 10:39 pm Leave a comment

Un-beet-able

It’s 9:15 pm and I’ve just now finished eating dinner. I came home later than planned and was then distracted by other things, so by the time I got around to contemplating my options, I needed something fast. Having already eaten a salad for lunch, I steered clear of the lettuce, but beyond that, pickings were slim.

Sliced cheese and tortilla chips got me out of more than one dinner fix this winter, but with all the veggies now available, I felt too guilty to go that route. There is plenty of pasta in the cupboard, but with no pesto or sage butter, that didn’t sound appealing. And roasted beets, while amazing (and a favorite), are too time consuming for as late as I was starting.

Which is how I arrive at beet greens. Unlike the beetroot, the greens cook up very quickly. Though largely viewed as inedible and quickly destined for the compost bin in most households, being creative with beet greens is not only healthy for you, but also helps cut down on our food waste! Tender much like spinach and swiss chard, these nutrient packed beauties are ready and waiting for your next menu.

I’ve done beet greens a few different ways in the past; usually it involves oil, garlic and some method of steaming or blanching the leaves. Wanting something a bit different this time, I turned to my trusty search engine and in the first page of results, came upon this lovely Beet Greens Salad recipe. While it still involved the aforementioned ingredients, this recipe has a few twists to what I’ve done before.

To make this salad, you will need:

Beet Green Salad

  • Greens from 2 bunches of beets
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 ripe tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 c slivered almonds, toasted until golden

1. Rinse the greens thoroughly in several changes of water.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the greens. Blanch 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water. With your hands, squeeze out the excess liquid. Chop the greens coarsely.

3. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. When it is hot, add the greens, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until the greens are tender but still bright colored.

4. Transfer the greens to a bowl.

5. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Pour the mixture over the greens and toss well. Add the onion, tomato, and almonds. Toss again. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if you like. Adapted from Justin Melnick, executive chef of Tomasso Trattoria

MY NOTES: First, a comment on oil. Whenever a recipe calls for cooking with olive oil, I always substitute an oil with a higher smoke point, which is the temperature at which the oil begins to break down. Olive oil to breaks down around 200-250º and at that point can actually become toxic. Options like canola, safflower or sunflower oil are much better for any medium or high heat pan cooking. So, for this recipe, I used canola oil for sauteing the greens, but olive oil for the dressing.

The taste on this salad was absolutely phenomenal. The lemon really helps bring out more of the flavor of the greens, and the onions and tomatoes add some nice texture and taste contrast. I didn’t have any almonds, so I toasted up a handful of raw sunflower seeds, which worked well, though I’d love to try this again with almonds.

So, next time you get a bunch of beets at the farmers market, before you put them in the fridge, twist off the stems/leaves and put them in a separate bag. The roots will last for a long time, but don’t wait more than a few days for the best quality of the greens.

Enjoy!

July 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm 2 comments


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